Real, lasting joy is based on our circumstances.
Does that statement contradict what you’ve heard about joy in a Christian’s life?
You’ve probably heard that joy is different from happiness. More than likely, you’ve been told that “happiness” is a reflection of our circumstances, but we experience “joy” in spite of our circumstances.
Well, according to what I see in Scripture, that’s not entirely accurate.
Yes, the Bible says believers can – and should – be joyful even in the midst of life’s trials (James 1:2-4). Because God uses these difficult circumstances to refine our character and purify our faith, we can rejoice in His miraculous work of making us fit for His use.
Believers find joy in our eternal circumstances
But real, lasting joy is also based on circumstances. Wonderful, glorious, eternal circumstances. These circumstances don’t change with the economy or age or loss. The apostle Peter elaborates in his first letter:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9, NIV
6 reasons to rejoice
I spotted six specific “circumstances” Peter mentions that should fill us “with an inexpressible and glorious joy!”
- New birth – We were dead in sin, but God has given us new life.
- Living hope – God will resurrect believers like He did His Son.
- Eternal inheritance – Jesus has prepared a place of eternal rest for us.
- Protected by God’s power – No one can take us away from God.
- Refinement of our faith – God even uses the painful things in our lives.
- Love relationship with Jesus – We have an awesome Savior that loves us!
The main Hebrew and Greek words translated as “joy” in the Bible all have similar meanings. They simply mean “joy, gladness, pleasure, happiness” and are used as the opposite of grief and sorrow. Scripture uses “joy” to refer to feelings that result from circumstances.
So what’s the difference between worldly joy and the joy believers can experience? The difference is which circumstances. The shifting, changing circumstances of this life produce joy that’s fleeting at best. But the eternal, spiritual circumstances, which are founded in a saving relationship with Christ, foster joy that cannot be overshadowed even by the harshest earthly circumstances.
Where does the world usually look for joy? Why can’t we trust our earthly circumstances to bring us joy no matter how great they may be?